Yesterday, in a 222-205 vote, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Republican-authored version of the 2012 Violence Against Women Act. This version significantly strips the resources of undocumented, Native, and homosexual victims of violence, among others. Joe Biden, one of the original authors of the VAWA, says the revision will “roll back critical provisions to help victims of abuse.” A Douchebag Decree doesn’t even begin to cover the authors and defenders of this act, which appears to solely help privileged white people.
The original 1994 Violence Against Women Act officially addressed the misogyny of American laws regarding domestic violence and sexual assault (among many others) and established the Office of Violence Against Women, a government administration dedicated to implementing policies and programs to combat our country’s legal gender bias (guess who was one of the original authors? Joe Biden). Among numerous other provisions, the landmark 1994 VAWA established that a victim’s past sexual conduct may not be used against them in rape-related cases.
Intermittent reauthorizations updated the act to give resources to more than just women. The 2000 update addressed victims of stalking and dating-related violence, and improved access to relief for immigrant victims. The 2005 update moved forward with increased recognition of Native and youth victims. The VAWA continued to move forward, in a remarkable show of bipartisan politics. Until yesterday.
Yesterday’s vote places the Violence Against Women Act into the hands of congresspeople charged with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Vice Chairwoman of the House of Representatives Republican Caucus, opposes VAWA 2012’s protections for lesbian, gay, and transgender people. She dismissed the provisions to address violence between same-sex and trans couples as “side issues” that should be debated “separately.”
The House Judiciary Committee removed a provision intended to protect victims of sexual assault under tribal jurisdictions. Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, reproached the Committee for failing to acknowledge the violence that more than one in four Native women will experience—and that is overwhelmingly perpetrated by non-Native men. Currently, tribal police have few-to-zero methods for bringing non-Native perpetrators to justice, even when they commit crimes on Native land.
The revised bill would also repeal the U-visa, given to protect and grant undocumented victims temporary citizenship so they may come forward and seek legal action against perpetrators. Without this part of the act, undocumented victims face deportation if they seek government help.
This week’s reauthorization battle smacks of petty partisan politics, furthering the GOP’s sidelining of lesbians, gays, trans people, women of color, and undocumented citizens. This childish move goes way beyond the War on Women territory into general War on Everyone but White, Straight People Territory. Without the VAWA, women like “Erica,” an undocumented worker, would continue to suffer abuse without the solace of government relief.
Numerous advisers to President Obama have spoken out against the Republican changes to the Violence Against Women Act. The House and Senate bills still must be reconciled before they reach Obama’s desk, and a veto looks more than likely if the right changes aren’t made. There’s still time to save the original intent of the VAWA. You can help by signing this petition by Feminist Majority or contacting your congressional representative with this helpful list from NOW.